FIRE BANDITS

Membership: Six unidentified men

Purpose: Using incendiary devices disguised as perfume bottles, the Fire Bandits ignited fires in the apartments of wealthy individuals; three gang members would then disguise themselves as firemen and loot the apartments of valuables while real firefighters were combating the blaze.

Aliases: "Phoney firemen" (as called by Captain America)

Affiliations: Snipe Gooligan

Enemies: Bucky (Fred Davis), Captain America (Jeff Mace) (see comments)

Base of Operations: Tiger Sweet perfume factory, New York City

First Appearance: Captain America Comics I#59/1 (November, 1946)

History: (Captain America Comics I#59/1 (fb) - BTS) - The past of the individual Fire Bandits members is unknown, but they formulated a scheme to start fires in the apartments of wealthy residents, then they would plunder the homes while disguised as firemen. They developed fire-bombs disguised as bottles of Tiger Sweet perfume. After employing a crew of kids (including Snipe Gooligan) as their sales agents, the Fire Bandits provided them with sample bottles of actual perfume to demonstrate to their customers; the Fire Bandits would later send the disguised incendiary devices to the customers' homes once they had placed orders. When the timed chemical fire-bombs went off, the Fire Bandits would loot the apartments during the confusion caused by the resultant fires.

(Captain America Comics I#59/1) - During one such fire, the Fire Bandits were about to rob an apartment when Captain America and Bucky came rushing in to help rescue victims from the inferno.  But Cap noticed that the three "firemen" weren't following proper safety procedures when they were opening a door to the burning apartment, and he deduced that they were phonies.  Cap and Bucky tackled the robbers, but one Fire Bandit turned the apartment building's emergency fire hose on the heroes to cover their escape.  Later, after real firefighters had the blaze under control, Cap spoke with the fire marshal and learned that some previous apartment fires were similarly burglarized.

   The next day, the three Fire Bandits (in civilian clothes) met with Snipe near the Lee School; Captain America and Bucky recognized them as the burglars and went into action, and a fight ensued.  But a small mob of school boys--fans of the heroes and autograph seekers--swarmed around them, which gave the Fire Bandits a diversion to make a getaway, and they fled back to their perfume factory.

(Captain America Comics I#59/1 - BTS) - While in his mother's apartment, Snipe Gooligan was looking over his perfume salesbook and noticed that the addresses of his customers matched the addresses of apartment fires and robberies listed in a newspaper article.  Seeing a connection, Snipe headed to the perfume factory to confront his employers and accuse them of the crimes.

(Captain America Comics I#59/1) - Becoming concerned that Snipe was involved with the robbers, Cap and Bucky changed to their civilian identities and visited Snipe's home, where they were let in by his mother; although Snipe was gone, Cap noticed Snipe's salesbook and saw the same connection Snipe had seen earlier--figuring that the perfume manufacturers were somehow responsible for the fires, Cap and Bucky headed to the perfume factory. 

   As Snipe was confronting the mobsters, Captain America and Bucky came bursting in and battled all six of the gang members, while Snipe set off the building's sprinkler system, which also activated the fire alarm.  Shortly afterward, firefighters arrived and helped Cap and Bucky overpower the gang members, and the Fire Bandits were taken into custody.

Comments: Created by Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Binder (artist)

Timely Comics was still publishing the adventures of Captain America and Bucky into the late-1940s, with the characters referred to as "Steve" and "Bucky" in their civilian identities.  But modern Marvel continuity has established that Cap (Steve Rogers) and Bucky (James Buchanan Barnes) were lost and presumed killed-in-action in April, 1945, and their costumed identities were assumed by replacements (@ What If? I#4).  Cap was replaced first by William Nasland (formerly the Spirit of '76), and later (following the death of Nasland at the hands of Adam-II's android in 1946) by Jeff Mace (formerly the Patriot), while Fred Davis filled in as Bucky. 

So since this Fire Bandits story was published decades before the above retcon occurred, Captain America was depicted as "Steve Rogers," while his young sidekick was "Bucky Barnes".  Maybe this continuity glitch could be explained by saying that Mace and Davis temporarily assumed those names after undergoing programming from the "False Memory Chamber"--maybe the two had living relatives they wanted to protect from enemy reprisal should their alter-egos ever be compromised, so making them believe they were "Steve Rogers" and "Bucky Barnes" (two "dead" men with no known family members) would seem to be a perfect way to conceal their true identities.  Jeff Mace had black hair, while "Steve Rogers" was depicted with blond hair in this story, so I guess Mace also colored his hair or wore a wig when he assumed his cover-identity.

In this story, "Steve" accepted a teaching position at the Lee School, and "Bucky" enrolled as a student.

Profile by Ron Fredricks

CLARIFICATIONS:
The Fire Bandits have no known connections to:


Tiger Sweet perfume incendiary device

A chemical fire-bomb created by the Fire Bandits, it was disguised as a bottle of Tiger Sweet perfume.  The upper portion of the bottle contained perfume, while the lower portion was filled with acid and an incendiary fluid separated by a layer of wax--when the acid ate through the wax, it would ignite the incendiary fluid and start a fire.

--Captain America Comics I#59/1
















images: (without ads)
Captain America Comics I#59/1, p9, pan1 (main image, two Fire Bandits being tackled by Bucky and Captain America)
Captain America Comics I#59/1, p8, pan5 (three Fire Bandits opening door to burning apartment, as Captain America and Bucky rush in)
Captain America Comics I#59/1, p14, pan2 (remaining three members of Fire Bandits gang)
Captain America Comics I#59/1, p16, pan1 (diagram of incendiary device disguised as bottle of Tiger Sweet perfume)


Appearances:
Captain America Comics I#59/1 (November, 1946) - Stan Lee (writer), Jack Binder (pencils), George Klein (inks)


Last updated: 07/03/16.

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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